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Recess Defined

Recess is a regularly scheduled period in the school day for physical activity and play that is monitored by trained staff or volunteers.1,2 During recess, students are encouraged to be physically active and engaged with their peers in activities of their choice, at all grade levels, kindergarten through 12th grade.1,3

Recess benefits students by1,4-7

  • Increasing their level of physical activity.
  • Improving their memory, attention, and concentration.
  • Helping them stay on-task in the classroom.
  • Reducing disruptive behavior in the classroom.
  • Improving their social and emotional development (e.g., learning how to share and negotiate).
Recess Data and Policy

A recess brief [PDF – 1MB]External  was developed by National Network of Public Health Institutes in collaboration with CDC. This brief can be used by states, school districts, and schools to explain the national data and guidance for recess in K-12 schools.

Recess Strategies

CDC and SHAPE AmericaExternal developed the following documents:


Strategies for Recess in Schools Cdc-pdf[PDF – 2.69 MB]—Evidence-based strategies for planning and providing recess in schools to increase physical activity participation and improve academic achievement (e.g., performance, behavior, attention).

Recess Planning in Schools cover

Recess Planning in Schools Cdc-pdf[PDF – 2.13 MB]—Helps schools put the Strategies for Recess in Schools into practice when developing a written school recess plan.

  1. Institute of Medicine. Educating the Student Body: Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2013. Available at:
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A Guide for Developing Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Dept of Health and Human Services; 2013.
  3. SHAPE America. Guide for Recess Policy. Reston, VA: SHAPE America; 2016.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Association Between School-Based Physical Activity, Including Physical Education, and Academic Performance. Atlanta, GA; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Dept of Health and Human Services; 2010.
  5. Michael SL, Merlo C, Basch C, Wentzel K, Wechsler H. Critical connections: health and academics. J School Health. 2015;85(11):740-758.
  6. Fortson J, James-Burdumy S, Bleeker M, et al. Impact and Implementation Findings from an Experimental Evaluation of Playworks: Effects on School Climate, Academic Learning, Student Social Skills and Behavior. Princeton, NJ: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; 2013.
  7. Barros RM, Silver EJ, Stein REK. School recess and group classroom behavior. Pediatrics. 2009;123(2):431-436.